I'm with ERIE
July 18, 2012
James Hayney, professional Abraham Lincoln presenter
ERIE Customer with Jack M. Panas Insurance in Dillsburg, Pa.
On becoming Lincoln: James, a longtime stage actor, first assumed the role of Lincoln in 2002 for a National Civil War Museum fundraiser. The timing was perfect: "I wanted to do a one-man play for a while," he remembers, "and I thought I had the right look to pull off Lincoln." James threw himself into that pursuit; by 2005, being a Lincoln presenter was his full-time job.
Walking the walk (and talking the talk): In both the literal and figurative senses, a professional Lincoln presenter has big shoes to fill. For starters, James wears boots that lift him to Lincoln's towering height of 6'4". He also dons Lincoln's trademark top hat, frock coat and vest shirt and pencils in a mole on the right side of his face.
Then there's capturing his voice. "There aren't any recordings of Lincoln's voice, so all you can do is read accounts of what he sounded like," explains James. (Most say he had a high voice.)
More than a job: James performs nearly 150 presentations each year to museums, schools and tour groups visiting Gettysburg National Military Park. For him, the experience never gets old. "Lincoln truly was a great man who inspires me to be a better person," he says.
James also enjoys meeting fellow Lincoln aficionados—and that's an easy thing to do when you're a life member of the National Association of Abraham Lincoln Presenters. (Yes, it really exists.)
Livin' Lincoln at home: James' home is a testament to the passion he has for his work. There, you'll find a dedicated and ever expanding Lincoln library. "There are more than 16,000 books written about Lincoln—but my wife says I can't bring any more of them home!" says James, who recently bought a Kindle to corral his collection (and maintain family harmony).
Why ERIE? "Whenever I have a problem—like the time a tree fell on my house— I call Agent Jack Panas right away," says James, who has been with ERIE for more than 25 years. "I like knowing I can do that."